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More Community Health Centers Needed?

October 26, 2011, 5:10 PM by Peggy Moyer

More Community Health Centers Needed?
SIOUX FALLS, SD - A down economy and changes to the health care industry in Washington could mean more community health centers in South Dakota.

Senator Tim Johnson was in Sioux Falls today and spoke with community health leaders about future needs.

The message waiting for Johnson was how South Dakota's demand for health care services continues to out pace its capacity. The economy is playing a big role in that. Falls Community Health in Sioux Falls has seen an increase in patients over the past few years.

"We monitor and measure and know there are still unmet needs in the community which has definitely increased with the downturn of the economy over the last couple of years," Sioux Falls Department of Health Director Jill Franken said.

Community Health currently has 44,000 visits annually. With changes in the industry and the poor economy, that number is on expected to rise.

"Current healthcare infrastructure isn't large enough," Community Health Care Association of the Dakotas Chief Executive Officer Scott Graff said.

"Will the new health bill compliment what you do with community health centers or will it replace efforts down here?" Johnson asked.

"We very much expect its going to build and compliment on what the health centers are doing in the state. Even when uninsured patients start to receive insurance coverage," Graff said.

There are 41community health centers across the state and Graff believes changes in the healthcare industry in Washington could double the need here in South Dakota.

Graff agrees with Johnson that there will be more than enough business to support both public and private healthcare systems.

"Health centers compliment instead of compete with healthcare generally," Johnson said.

Johnson told the group, democrats and republicans alike appear to support community health centers, but only time will tell how much money will be provided in the future.

Johnson was presented an award following the healthcare meeting. Graff presented him with the Community Health Defender Award, given by the National Association of community healthcare.

Johnson has won the same award in past years too. The national group applauds his continued commitment to health care.

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